Monday, September 27, 2004

Six universities board high-tech superhighway

The LONI (Louisiana Optical Network Initiative) fiber optic network connecting state universities was recently promoted to the legislature as a potential engine of economic development according to an Advertiser article. Its nice to see folks talking about the benefits of fiber, even if it isn't our own (yet).

Lafayette's university, UL will be one of the chief beneficiaries of LONI and its connection to Lambda, the next generation high-speed internet testbed that will run through Louisiana. LONI will hook into Lambda in Baton Rouge and arc out to New Orleans with a loop around the rest of Louisiana that includes Lafayette. Part of what's great about this is that by hooking directly into Lambda LONI users will be able to participate as peers in their interactions with the most prestisious schools in the nation. They will have as fast a connection as anyone—they will be equals in that important regard. Crucial to the success of LONI is the ability to push a huge amount of bandwidth. But to do that it is important not only that it be technically possible, it is also essential that it be affordable. Lots of bandwidth can be lots of expense. Technical feasibility is not enough. Lambda makes it affordable as well because there is no intermediary between the internet and user that charges a fortune to access the internet. LONI is like an interstate onramp--it allows users to get on the high speed, interconnected, essentially free, internet without driving on a toll road to get there.

Most of us are in the situation of paying for a toll road in order to access the free highway. But the LONI/Lambda connection cuts out the middleman. By relying entirely on themselves the universities and the state have created a system where no outsider has to be paid. Without that none of the universities could afford to use the nifty new system. And the best system would go unused or underutilized.

LONI and Lambda will light up some of that dark fiber running along I-10. But there is plenty more. You have to wonder if LUS can't pick up on some of that mojo too; and cut a deal with the state to light up a bit more and pick up its own direct connection into a national backbone. Sure would save a bundle of money. And, like the LONI/Lambda system, it would mean that only local capacity, not external costs, would limit the amount of bandwidth that could be affordably made available to local users. Now that is an end to be devoutly wished.

No comments: